Trauma on the Slopes This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     For the past few summers I have attended summer ski camp in Oregon. While the camp has improved my skills, I go there not just for the skiing but also to renew friendships I've made through the years. Last year, though, was unlike any other.

On August 14, the afternoon sun was glistening and I had not a care in the world. For my friend Kees, though, it would be his last day skiing. He lost control and went flying into the rocks. He suffered severe head trauma, and died. Just a few hours before we had been chatting and laughing, and then he was gone. I was dumbfounded. How could an accident like this happen?

I trudged off the mountain that day vowing that I would never ski again. With my parents all the way across the country, I had to rely on friends and counselors. For the rest of the day, I sat with close friends, crying and laughing and remembering. An even closer bond grew. But I didn't want to ski. Despite having two days of camp left, I felt paralyzed, unable even to ride the bus to the mountain. Kees should have been there, too. I saw myself in him and felt afraid.

The next day two friends talked me into skiing a few runs. Even though I said I would try, my body refused to move from the lodge. Eventually I rode the lift up the mountain. I felt alone and devastated. A few kids from the camp had made a memorial where he had fallen: two poles crossed in tribute to a life lost. After a service, the skiing recommenced. I rode to the top of the race lane with my coach and talked about how I felt about skiing that day. I told him that it was hard to put my boots on, let alone ski. He told me it was fine if I didn't want to, but there was a disappointed tone in his voice, and I didn't want to let him down. I skied the rest of that day. With each run, I relieved my pain, carving away loss until Kees' spirit fused with mine and the mountain.

Those days were the hardest, yet most rewarding, of my life. Not only did I learn teamwork, I also learned the healing power of friendship. Instead of following my pledge never to ski again, I vowed instead that from that day forward every time I mounted a ski hill, Kees would be there with me. Every run I take is for him, and every medal or trophy I win is for him. Kees has taught me that obstacles are like mazes, you must find the path through them. You can't give up on what you love. Kees has not only helped me get over that obstacle, but continues to guide me. His tragedy showed me that usually I am my own obstacle. The strength and courage I need dwells within. I only need to reach inside to find the tools to survive.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face." My fear was skiing, but after getting back on the hill and trying, I proved that strength, courage and confidence come in different forms. I found my strength and conquered my obstacle.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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